In our congregation, we decided we need to pay more attention to resources that can support the curriculums. We want resources that are fun for kids, don’t feel like weekday school, don’t require any teacher preparation, and support the learning that takes place in the regular curriculums.
Like, for example, board games and card games. We already use a couple of board games in our Sunday school: (1) Wildcraft, a cooperative board game that teaches about herbs, supports some of our ecology courses; and (2) Moksha Patam, a board game that simulates karma, rebirth, etc., supports one of our world religions curriculums.
Ideally, we’d like to have one relevant board game per quarter per age group that we can give to teachers. And while we were talking this over in the curriculum review committee, I started dreaming up a card game about Moses leading the Israelites to freedom across the wilderness. Then I had a day of study leave today, so I could prototype this game, provisionally called: “Exodus, The Card Game.”
The game borrows its basic structure from the classic card game Mille Bornes (if you don’t know Milles Bornes, it will be easier to understand this blog post if you first read the Wikipedia article).
Although I’m borrowing the basic structure of the game from Mille Bornes, there are significant differences. Mostly, Exodus is a faster-paced game, more suited to the short time allotted to Sunday school classes. And I had to make other changes to fit the narrative of the book of Exodus — I wanted to make sure that as you play you get some sense of the narrative of Exodus…such as the fact that G-d released fiery serpents that attacked the Israelites, but then G-d told Moses to make a brass serpent that would heal serpents bites (Num. 21:6-8). Before researching this game, I didn’t even remember about the fiery serpents. It’s a pretty strange thing to include in the narrative, and one of my learning goals (and part of my theological interpretation) for Exodus, The Card Game is to help kids understand that the story of Exodus is pretty weird. It’s not trying to be an accurate historical account, nor is it some kind of scientific explanation — rather, it is a narrative filled with fantastical elements that reveal G-d’s character.
My other big learning goal and theological component for the game is, not surprisingly, to give some understanding of G-d’s character. First and foremost, G-d is not all kittens-and-rainbows, as for example when G-d sends the fiery serpents to bite the Israelites. Second, G-d does not follow human logic and is ultimately unknowable by humans; this is symbolized for the Israelites in part by spelling G-d’s name without vowels: “YHWH” (this idiosyncratic spelling is retained in the game in the English name for G-d). Third, while G-d is not omnibenevolent, G-d does want justice for humans and for the land; this theological interpretation of G-d’s character is communicated by the social justice flavor of the G-d Given Right Cards. A lesser fourth point is that G-d’s power do have some limits to them; G-d is not wholly omnipotent. So it is the game tries to help the players get a small sense of G-d’s character.
Above: Sample cards from the prototype deck
More details about the game below. If I ever put the game into production, I’ll let you know how you can get a copy….
Update 4/14/18: Major revisions to game rules and narrative now complete. Both images updated. I won’t revise this post any more; any future rules revisions will be incorporated into the production game (if it’s ever put into production).
For reference, here are some of the differences between Exodus the Card Game and Mille Bornes: In Exodus, players each hold 7 cards in their hands, instead of 6; this is needed because there are more hazard cards than in Mille Bornes, so players need to be able to hold on to more remedy cards. In Exodus, cards are placed face up on the discard pile AND a player may take the top card from the discard pile during their turn. There is no score-keeping, as in Mille Bornes, which changes strategy and quickens the pace a bit.
EXODUS, THE CARD GAME
Game Narrative and Rules Summary
You’re one of the leaders of the Israelites, a band of people wandering through the wilderness on your way to the Promised Land. On your journey, you are helped by your god. Your god is a god both powerful and mysterious; because of the mystery, you spell the name of your god without any vowels, like this: G-d. As you travel through the wilderness, you confront various Trials, or problems that only G-d can help you solve. Will yours be the first band of people to reach the Promised Land?…
Its estimated that the Israelites traveled something like 800 to 1,000 km through the wilderness before entering the Promised Land. Thus, to win at Exodus The Card Game you have to play Travel Cards totaling 1,000 km for 2 player games, or 800 km for 3-4 player games.
Each player can play “Trial Cards” on other players; if a Trial Card is played on you, you cannot progress until you play the appropriate “G-d Helps Card.”
Exodus the Card Game includes “G-d Given Right Cards.” Each G-d Given Right Card, when played, prevents its associated Trial Cards from being played. And when any player plays a G-d Given Right Card, that card applies to ALL players from then on (because G-d given rights apply to ALL persons).
Above: Sample playing area
Rules of the Game
I. Basic play:
A. 2 to 4 players may play. Every player is dealt 7 cards.
B. Plays goes to the right, beginning with the player to the right of the dealer.
C. On your turn, you may EITHER draw from the top of the Main Deck OR draw the topmost card from the Discard Pile.
D. If you draw from the Discard Pile, you must then discard a card from your hand; that completes your turn. Note that you may NEVER place a G-d Given Right card on the Discard Pile.
If you draw from the Main Deck, do one of the following:
1. Play a Travel Card on your Mileage Pile (you cannot do this if someone has played a Trial Card on your Trials Pile, see below);
2. Play a Trial Card on another player’s Trials Pile;
3. Place any card from your hand on the Discard Pile, face up (except a G-d Given Right card may never be placed on the Discard Pile); OR
4. Play a G-d Given Right card (see below).
E. If another player plays a Trial Card on your Trials Pile, you cannot play any Travel Cards until you cover the Trial Card with the correct G-d Helps Card.
F. If another player has a Trial Card exposed on their Trials Pile, you can still play a Trial Card on their Trials Pile. Only the topmost Trial Card on any player’s Trials Pile counts. Example: If you have a “Red Sea Blocks Escape” card on top of your Trials Pile, and another player places a “Worship Golden Calf” card on your Trials Pile, you no longer have to worry about the “Red Sea Blocks Escape” card; all you need do now is play a “Burn Golden Calf, Grind It Up, Drink It” card on your Trials Pile, and then you can start playing Travel Cards again on your Mileage Pile.
II/ G-d Given Right Cards
A. You can play a G-d Given Right Card AT ANY TIME by saying “G-D GIVEN RIGHT!” As soon as you say “G-D GIVEN RIGHT!” all other play stops. (If you say “G-D GIVEN RIGHT!” when another player is holding more than 7 cards in their hand, i.e., that player has drawn a card but has not yet played a card, they must immediately place one card from their hand into the Discard Pile, and play goes to you.)
B. If you say “G-D GIVEN RIGHT!” when it is NOT YOUR TURN, all other play must stop. Place this card face up in the middle of the playing area, and draw a card to replace it in your hand. Each G-d Given Right Card protects from a certain Trial card, and if that Trial Card is on the top of your Trials Pile when you play the G-d Given Right Card, remove that Trial Card and place it in the Discard Pile; if there are other Trial Cards immediately under that topmost Trial Card, remove those too, until either a G-d Helps Card is exposed, or until there is nothing left on your Trials Pile. Now it becomes your turn, so draw another card and take your turn. After you finish your turn, play goes to the player on your right, and play continues from there.
C. If you say “G-D GIVEN RIGHT!” when it IS YOUR TURN, place the card face up in the middle of the playing area, and draw a card to replace it in your hand. Each G-d Given Right Card protects from a certain Trial card, and if that Trial Card is on the top of your Trials Pile when you play the G-d Given Right Card, remove that Trial Card and place it in the Discard Pile; if there are other Trial Cards immediately under that topmost Trial Card, remove those too, until either a G-d Helps Card is exposed, or until there is nothing left on your Trials Pile. It now becomes your turn, so you draw another card and take your turn. After you finish your turn, play goes to the player on your right, and play continues from there.
D. If another player places a G-d Given Right Card in the middle of the playing area, and if you have the associated Trial Card exposed on your Trials Pile, you may remove that Trial Card and place it in the Discard Pile. If this exposes another Trial Card, that Trial Card stays on your Trials Pile.
E. Each G-d Given Right Card protects from a certain Trial card, and once a G-d Given Right card has been played, EVERY player is now protected from that Trial card. So, for example, if you play the “Enough Food For All” G-d Given Right Card, then no one can play the “Nothing to Eat” Trial Card for the rest of the game.
F. If 2 players say “G-D GIVEN RIGHT!” at exactly the same moment, play goes in this order:
1: “Enough food for all”
2: “Clean water for all”
3: “No one has to worship false things”
4: “Freedom from violence”
III/ Winning the Game — with 3-4 players
A. The first player to play 800 km on their Mileage Pile wins the game.
B. To win, you must reach 800 km EXACTLY; you cannot go over 800 km.
C. No player may play more than one 250 km card.
IV/ Winning the game — with 2 players
A. The first player to play 1,000 km on their Mileage Pile wins the game.
B. To win, you must reach 1,000 km EXACTLY; you cannot go over 1,000 km.
C. No player may play more than one 250 km card.
V/ Playing in pairs — with 4 or 6 players
You can play this game in pairs, with each pair sharing a Mileage Pile and a Trials Pile. Each player has their own hand which they cannot show to other players (including their partner).
If you play with 2 pairs or 4 players, play to 1,000 km.
If you play with 3 pairs or 6 players, play to 800 km.
Ideas for Strategy
— The cards you place in the Discard Pile make a difference. For example, if you have played a 250 km card on your Mileage Pile, you cannot use another 250 km card; but if you hold a 250 km card in your hand and discard that card on the Discard Pile, another player may pick it up so they can play it. In another example, if another player has a “Nothing to eat” card exposed on their Trials Pile, and you discard a “Manna to eat” card, the other player could pick that card up. You can choose to help other players, or not, by which cards you discard.
— Remember that playing a G-d Given Right card can help other players. You can choose to help other players, or not, when you play one of these cards.
List of Cards
A. 2 cards Nothing to eat (Ex. 16:2-3)
B. 2 cards Red Sea blocks escape (Ex. 14:9)
C. 2 cards Water is polluted, tastes bitter (Ex. 15:23-24)
D. 2 cards Have to worship a Golden Calf (Ex. 32:1-6)
E. 2 cards G-d sends fiery serpent attack (Num. 21:6)
F. 2 cards Attacked by Amalek (Ex. 17:8)
12 Trial Cards
G-D HELPS cards:
A. 7 cards Manna to eat (Ex. 16:4)
B. 7 cards Part the Red Sea (Ex. 15-16)
C. 7 cards Make the water clean (Ex. 15:25, 17:5)
D. 7 cards Burn Golden Calf, grind it up, drink it (Ex. 32:20)
F. 7 cards Brass serpent heals fiery serpent bites (Num. 21:7-8)
G. 7 cards Raise hand, magically repel Amalek (Ex. 17:9-15)
42 G-d Helps Cards
G-D GIVEN RIGHT cards
A. 1 card Enough food for all
B. (none for Red Sea)
C. 1 card Clean water for all
D. 1 card No one has to worship false things
E. (none for fiery serpents)
F. 1 card Freedom from violence
4 G-d Given Right Cards
4 cards 250 km
10 cards 100 km
18 cards 50 km
18 cards 25 km
50 Distance Cards
108 total cards in deck